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Sat5th Apr 2003

On the 1st April Yellow One Spot and Yellow Diagonal Bar were observed foraging and soaring over young forestry to the south of the Derryveagh Mountains. On one occasion, as both birds were soaring together, one eagle made an almost vertical stoop at a particular point among the young trees and the second eagle seemed to react a few seconds later and came gliding in at a much lower angle and both converged on the same spot. They failed to catch their prey (possibly a Hare), which I could not see, but it was clearly a tandem hunting attempt. It is thought that hunting in tandem is normally carried out by a pair of Golden Eagles but these two individuals had not yet formed a pair, though they have often been seen together periodically over the last two years. While observing the birds the radio signal from Diagonal Bar seemed to be somewhat intermittent suggesting a failing radio transmitter.

Diagonal Bar has not been recorded since but One Spot continued to wander throughout northern Donegal during April. Yellow Three Spots was noted in the Blue Stack Mountains on the 22nd and 24th but was later seen going to roost near the release cages in Glenveagh at 8.12 pm on 29th April. Another 2nd year eagle, Yellow Horizontal Bar was noted in the same two 10km squares in the Derryveagh Mountains during 9 different days throughout April. Meanwhile, Yellow Two Spots was also regularly noted in two 10km squares during the month.

Blue 1, 4 and 5 were noted near Slieve Sneacht on the 1st April. Blue 2 was near Lough Barra, Blue 8 was in the Glendowan Mountains and Blue 9 was seen as usual in Glenveagh National Park. The next day Blue 0 was noted in the Blue Stack Mountains but was back in Glenveagh by the 9th April. Since it was released, Blue 9 had stayed within the Park or nearby until the 12th April. On the 14th April it was seen in the Poisoned Glen pecking at the dried out hide of a dead sheep, which was already picked clean. Blue 9 may possibly be dependent on eating carrion.

On the 24th April 2 males (one first year and one second year bird) and one female were seen interacting over a mountain ridge. One of the males (presumably the older bird) started its undulating display flight and then started to chase the second male. The second year male, Yellow One Spot, had been almost 20km away two days previously. Nothing else of a territorial nature was noted in this area over the following weeks.

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Wed5th Mar 2003

On the 1st March Blue 9 was seen outside the Park for the first time, soaring comfortably along a ridge of the Glendowan Mountains. It was noted here on several occasions during the month though it was still roosting in the head of Glenveagh. Another female, Yellow Horizontal Bar was also very sedentary during the month and hopefully she may be in the process of establishing her own territory.

After spending most of the winter in the Derryveagh range, Yellow Three Spots was noted in the Blue Stack Mountains on the 12th March and has not been located since. Yellow Diagonal Bar was noted only once during the month, whilst visiting Glenveagh on the 14th March. The other two second-year birds were regularly noted in their favoured areas.

The first-year birds were found foraging on the outer margins of the Derryveagh range during the first half of the month. By the 13th Blue 3 was located in the Blue Stacks above the village of Commeen and Blue 2, which was in the Poisoned Glen at 12.50m hrs, was found near Commeen at 16.50 hrs, some 22km away. Even though there was no deliberate feeding in the Park since early February all the first-year eagles were occasionally noted in the Park until the 20th of March.

As envisaged in the project plan, the project updates will be circulated every three months in future.

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Wed5th Feb 2003

A number of red deer carcasses were left out on the hillside in Glenveagh during snow on the 4th February. This was the last of the supplementary feeding this winter. Yellow Diagonal Bar came back into the Park in early February and was not located for the rest of the month. The other four second year birds were located regularly during the month.

Yellow One Spot was noted in several different areas all within 10km of each other during February, whilst Yellow Two Spots and Yellow Horizontal Bar were also noted in their respective areas during the month. Blue 9 was still quite inactive during February. The legs and cere of Blue 9 were a very pale/washed out yellow compared to the orange yellow ceres and scales on the legs of the other eagles. On the 26th she was noted in Glenveagh as usual but on the 28th of February she could not be located in the main Glen for the first time since she was released on the 12th September 2002.

The first-year birds were now spreading out into the Derryveagh Mountains by themselves, though 2, 3 or sometimes four birds would converge, near favoured locations, for periods during the day. All first-year birds were still within 20km of the release area at the end of the month.

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Sun5th Jan 2003

All first and second-year Golden Eagles were located alive in the Derryveagh Mountains during the first few days of January 2003, except Three Spots. On the 9th January 2003, Three Spots was located perched in the Head of Glenveagh thus ensuring a 100% survival rate for Irish Golden Eagles in 2002. Admittedly it is a very small sample size - less than 9 eagle years in total (5 x 1 year and 8 x 6 months) - and the birds have spent a lot of time inside the safety of the National Park boundaries. When the population increases and the eagles begin to wander further away from the core release area the threat of persecution is likely to increase. There are very few breeding Buzzards in Leitrim, Sligo, Mayo and Galway and raising support for eagles in these disparate counties will take time and effort. However, many people feared there would be high annual mortality rates due to persecution in Donegal. We do not expect to see a 100% survival rate in future years - so let us savour this remarkable fact and pleasant feeling whilst it lasts.

Horizontal Bar, Diagonal Bar and Two Spots were noted in the Derryveagh range on the 3rd January and One Spot was also noted there on the 6th January. Diagonal Bar was seen feeding at a food dump in the Park on the 9th January and Three Spots and Diagonal Bar were noted in the Park on the 13th January. Two Spots was noted flying in the Glendowan Mountains on the 15th January. Two Spots, Three Spots and Horizontal Bar were noted in the Glenveagh National Park on the 29th January.

Blue 8 had returned to the Park by the 6th January, was not located on the 9th, had a faint signal from the edge of the Park on the 11th, was not located on the 13th or 14th and was present in the Park on the 15th. Blue 2 and Blue 5 were not located in the Park on the 11th but had returned by the 13th January. Blue 5 was absent again on the 20th and itself and Blue 8 were absent on the 22nd and the 29th January. Blue 9 continued to give cause for concern during December and January - it would appear to have some physical weakness and has not been as strong as the other eagles ever since its belated release. However on the 30th January Blue 9 was seen soaring, in strong winds, for the first time since it was released in September 2002. The other four first-year birds were monitored regularly within the Park during January.

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Thu5th Dec 2002

During December there were 3-6 records for each second year bird in the Derryveagh range, including Glenveagh National Park. There were also several days when these birds could not be located in the Derryveagh range. It seems as if the five second year eagles are following the same pattern; foraging in other nearby mountain ranges and returning to the Derryveagh Mountains and the release site regularly, possibly to see if there is a single territory holding eagle in place or to begin establishing themselves as territorial sub-adults. 3 or 4 of these eagles are usually located in and appear to favour particular sections of the National Park. Obviously we do not want to prejudice any potential future breeding attempts, in several years time, by identifying those areas. All eagle sightings and radio-tracking data up to the end of 2002 are currently being analysed.

The first year eagles were quite sedentary during December and all eight birds were often found in Glenveagh itself or the immediate vicinity. Supplementary feeding (deer and crows put out on platforms in small trees) and deer stalking (grealloch and an occasional carcass left on the hill) ensured there was a steady supply of food in this area.

The only known movements of any note were the presence of Blue 2 on Lehanmore and Blue 8 roosting near Lough Inshagh (3km away) on the 6th December and Blue 2 and Blue 5 on Lehanmore (only 2km away) on the 18th December.

However, some birds were absent from Glenveagh for varying periods during December. The following birds were not located in Glenveagh on the following dates; Blue 8 on the 4th and 6th, Blue 2 and Blue 8 on the 10th, Blue 2 and Blue 5 on the 13th, Blue 8 on the 16th and Blue 8 was elsewhere on the 24th, 30th and 31st December. Interestingly all the above movements and unknown movements (hence their absence from the Park) refer to first year males, Blue 2, Blue 5 and Blue 8.

The only other interesting observations during the month involve Blue 2. On the 16th December, whilst radio tracking, Blue 2 was flushed from a slopping grassy and gravel edge of a shallow stream. I could not see the bird as I honed in on the radio signal. The stream ran along the bottom of the glen and when I surprised the eagle, it took several seconds for it to laboriously take off and gain elevation. There were large boulders behind it on one side of the burn and a more open sloping bank on the far side. I believe it would have walked uphill and onto the boulders for takeoff, if I had not disturbed it. There was no carrion in the vicinity and it did not appear to be suitable for frogs, mice or other prey items. I believe the bird was drinking, as there was no available fresh carrion in the Park that week, which probably affected its liquid requirements. (See the Golden Eagle, by Jeff Watson and published by T &AD Poyser - page 54.)

On the 23rd December, two males, Blue 2 and Two Spots were seen talon grappling in Glenveagh. They locked talons in mid air and tumbled and spiraled earthward on two separate occasions, before disengaging and regaining normal flight control. The older Two Spots was the aggressor and dominant bird. Two Spots was in the same area the following day and at the end of the month. As a first-year male, on the 21st December 2001, Two Spots was seen talon grappling with a female, Horizontal Bar, in nearly the exact same spot. The changing length of daylight hours, around the solstice, may be one of the triggers for such aggression in young male eagles. On a personal note, it is very reassuring to see these occasional flickers of latent breeding behaviour.

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